Frequently Asked Questions About Lung Transplants

Below are some frequently asked questions and answers about lung transplants.

What are the qualifications for a lung transplant? Can I get a lung transplant?

Patients who qualify for a lung transplant have an end-stage lung disease that has not responded to conservative treatment options.

Commonly treated conditions include:

Prompt evaluation for a transplant is particularly important for patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), PAH, and CF with recent deterioration. Disease progression in these illnesses is often unpredictable and early consultation with the lung transplant team can help ensure the best possible outcome.

Ideal candidates must meet the following criteria:

  • Advanced lung disease with limited 2-year survival
  • Oxygen-dependent
  • Age is generally 70 years or younger
  • Ambulatory and/or potential for rehabilitation
  • Abstinence from tobacco use
  • Adequate psychosocial support
  • No significant associated comorbidities

Under certain conditions, patients will be automatically disqualified from lung transplants. Absolute contraindications to lung transplant include:

  • Active or recent history of malignancy
  • Acute medical instability
  • Significant dysfunction of another major organ system that is not treatable
  • Non-adherence to medical therapy or follow up
  • Substance abuse or dependence
  • Active infection (HIV and Hep C disease with viremia)
  • BMI less than 12 or greater than 40
  • Absence of adequate social support
  • Severely limited functional status with poor rehabilitation potential
  • Poor psychosocial support
  • Coexisting coronary artery disease (CAD), chronic kidney disease (CKD), or cirrhosis

Other conditions may also disqualify patients, depending on a doctor’s assessment. Relative contraindications for lung transplant include:

  • BMI less than 15 or greater than 35
  • Poorly-controlled psychiatric conditions
  • Severe malnutrition
  • Prior thoracic surgery
  • Severe symptomatic osteoporosis

How long does a lung transplant take?

Depending on complications, the duration of surgery can vary. Typically a lung transplant takes 6-8 hours.

How long does a lung transplant last?

The lung transplant survival rate one year after transplant is 88 percent. After 3 years, the lung transplant survival rate is 73 percent. The 5-year lung transplant survival rate is 60 percent.

Some patients may live 10 or more years.

What is lung transplant recovery like?

Lung transplant recovery is divided into 2 phases:

  • Recovery in the hospital. A 3 to 5-day stay in the intensive care unit (ICU) occurs immediately after the procedure. Patients are closely monitored during this time.
    Patients are brought to a private room after their stay in the ICU and usually stay there for 2 to 3 weeks before being discharged.
    During recovery in the hospital, immunosuppressing drugs are administered and the ideal dosage is found. Physical rehabilitation and pulmonary rehabilitation are also started at this time.
  • Recovery after discharge (recovery at home). Patients attend weekly office visits for 6 to 8 weeks after discharge. Laboratory work, spirometry (breathing test), and chest X-rays are completed during each visit and their results are analyzed. Follow-up appointments then occur every 2 weeks for 6 to 8 weeks and then monthly thereafter. During recovery, immunosuppressant and antibiotic medications are given to prevent rejection and infection.

How much does a lung transplant cost?

A single lung transplant may cost well over $929,600.

A double lung transplant may cost well over $1,295,900.

A lung transplant combined with another organ transplant, most commonly the heart, may cost well over $2,600,000.

The majority of transplant costs are usually covered by public or private insurance.

Does a lung transplant cure cystic fibrosis?

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that affects multiple organs. Due to the systemic nature of the disease, a lung transplant does not cure cystic fibrosis. The transplant team collaborates with the cystic fibrosis team in managing any transplant or cystic fibrosis-related complications after the transplant.

What is the best hospital for a lung transplant in New Jersey?

Newark Beth Israel Medical Center is home to New Jersey’s only advanced lung disease and transplant program. As part of RWJBarnabas Health, the largest health care delivery system in the state, we have access to advanced technology and a variety of medical specialists. We focus on providing clinical excellence for people who have complex diagnoses by collaborating with experts in the field. Our one-year survival rate is well above the national average and continues to rise.

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